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Would you get a tutor for a low-motivated 9 yr old?

(24 Posts)
kayjayel Thu 05-Feb-15 22:15:23

I'm not sure if I'm being precious. DS is not motivated to work at school. Not self-motivated, and not motivated by success, nor by teachers. He's fairly happy at school, pretty bright but is focused on playing, computer games, friends. He takes the shortest cut for any work.

He will do homework, but school is lax on this, and I don't think that more homework would help - its a chore for teachers, and never ends up meaningful for him, or gives him a sense of pride. He can get into things and enjoy success if I sit with him, but it usually takes an hour of acting up.

I am wondering if he would really benefit from some one-on-one tuition which could give him a boost of confidence and ability in some core subjects, while he is still vaguely interested in listening to adults. But is this just a silly idea? Has anyone done this, or found an alternative way to motivate and encourage a 9 yr old? I am worried about secondary school and his likely school is somewhere where if he doesn't manage to push himself he may well end up neglected, as he sits in the 'easy average' section of kids that don't cause trouble.

Any advice or thoughts would be very welcome.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 10:51:36

Ah kayjayel:

you've hit the 'new age' problem - current educational 'style' is that everybody is praised to the hilt regardless of whether they achieved goal or not vs. ye old style praise systems (which often only resulted in high achievement being recognised, overlooking effort or improvement).

The middle ground is the rather out of fashioned protestant work ethic - where the doing of the task and your total commitment/ focus/ effort at that task is the important thing. Perseverance I suppose.

I also think that in most schools - offering seriously challenging work - work a child may struggle with or find overly difficult is not happening much.

Our solution to this conundrum - everyone getting the same work, except top table which was only 5 pupils - frequently children of teachers/ governors and rarely minorities... was to just do our own thing at home.

There are tons of on-line maths tutorials. Feedback is instant (what's right/ wrong - reward points - game scores - etc....). Results are tracked for parents - and most incorporate instruction/ practice of core skills from national curriculum. Since your DS likes video games - these on-line tutorials may be a good solution to improving his skills but also gradually introducing challenging work to him in a 'gaming' format which is less threatening perhaps than 'in class' where you don't want to embarrass yourself in front of friends. A lot out there - all discussed endlessly here on MN: Komodo Maths/ Maths Whizz/ Mathletics/ Mathsfactor/ Khan Academy - some are free (Khan academy) but most are by subscription. My advice is have an explore - include your son in this - so he is choosing a format that is attractive/ interesting to him - and take advantage of any free trials to test it out first.

Reading/ comprehension - with DD1 (who was a struggling reader and slow to get subtext in stories/ quick to skip words she didn't know) we just read regularly - using bath time for DD2 as a good stretch of time for her to read with me. Each time I'd pick up on something - maybe a tricky word - do you know what that means? Or discuss how the writing is hinting something awful is about to happen. We'd talk about the stories - characters (likes/ dislikes), ideas, humour, etc....

Work these two things regularly - and you'll find the rest will follow.


ouryve Fri 06-Feb-15 10:54:16

He's 9. He doesn't need to be highly motivated.

WowOoo Fri 06-Feb-15 10:58:12

Sounds like my almost 9 year old!

All I do is try to spend as much time with him while he does homework so he's supported as much as possible. It's tricky at the best of times with a younger, demanding brother.

Also, I encourage him to do other things he is motivated to do like sports and art before allowing him to watch TV or play tech games.

I'm saving any tutoring ££ for when it matters - GCSE/A level time.

tumbletumble Fri 06-Feb-15 11:09:49

I wouldn't get him a tutor personally, but you could maybe try to get him interested in stuff that means he is using his brain without realising iyswim. Chess club? Coding club? Trip to a science museum in half term?

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 11:11:38


I do take your point. they're only 9, they're still so little - but at some point along that spectrum of 9 - 11 in primary (KS2 upper - Year 5/6) they do need to find that motivation muscle.

I know it's fashionable for parents/ schools to suggest that 'homework', 'studying', 'practice' has no place in primary

possibly not helped by Sutton Trust/ EEF study on the fact that established minimal value of homework in primary (e.g.: or EEF toolkit:

but this was based on two studies: - with varying results (actually showing a higher effect than reported by Sutton/ EEF of between 4 to 9 months improvement) - but the indicator was expressed as a fraction 0.44 and therefore rounded down to negligible/ 0 effect.

Teachers see homework as extra work - and I suspect this is the motivator behind many schools abandoning homework on the back of the government removing a homework requirement in primary & the Sutton/ EEF Primary Toolkit.

more notably Sarah Montague interviewed John Hattie: info here: who in this little clip says that he doesn't feel homework should be abandoned - it should be improved:

The reality ouryve - is that in many homes children spend 2-3 hours a day on watching tv/ playing video games - it is becoming more rare that children play outside with friends, watch wildlife, kick a ball around - do chores around the farm/ home, etc....

I don't think 30 minutes a day - reading, writing or practicing maths (in a video game format is fine) isn't onerous - especially if broken up into 10/15 minutes units in and around snacking/ resting/ playing/ going to clubs/ talking with family or friends/ tidying/ bathing/ etc... - and my experience has been it's made a huge difference (although I hasten to add DD1's primary taught maths oddly and had low ambitions for mathematics/ sciences [STEM subjects] generally).

Finally as a parent who has watched a cohort move from a primary with no homework to local secondaries with regular homework - it just defers the battle to build homework routines/ accept that some reinforcement or practice of concepts taught in school is necessary to Year 7 (ages 11/12) - when I can assure you it seems to be much more of a fight and although I've won it with DD1, I know some friends have given up in despair and their DCs are sitting in detention most nights after school doing homework - developing bad attitudes to school/ their teachers and I can assure you the feeling is mutual from the school/ teachers toward these new, disengaged pupils.


PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 11:12:57

Sorry - that should have read

I don't think 30 minutes a day (doing extra work) is onerous....

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 11:14:36

Just as an aside

I do find it interesting IME that the same parents that object to doing reading/ writing/ maths at home tend to encourage their children to do sports/ dance/ music + extra practice for these

and see that extra practice as 'a good thing'.

I suppose the question I have is why is reading a book/ writing a story or keeping a diary/ playing a maths video game any different?

Moniker1 Fri 06-Feb-15 11:16:04

I am reading this
at the moment, the author was mentioned by Prof Tanya Byron on a radio prog the other day.
It might be of interest.

PopularNamesInclude Fri 06-Feb-15 11:25:36

Is he avoiding work because he is concerned about failure? I would hire a tutor if that is the case. But it could be something else. Are the lessons dull and uninspired? Can you do anything to make the value of what he is being taught obvious to him?

PopularNamesInclude Fri 06-Feb-15 11:28:34

Past- parents encourage music, sport and dance because schools offer very limited opportunuties for these key areas of acheivement, but offer maths and English daily.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 11:52:21


Darling - maybe in your region - but Birmingham City Council (for all its faults) offers brilliant peripatetic music tuition, free regional orchestra practices and performance opportunities + lends instruments. Many schools subsidize music tuition as well.

I agree that there are many after school clubs offering additional opportunities at dance/ sports/ music - but these are also offered regularly through PE/ PSHE/ Learning Journey & field trips (e.g. Aston Villa's brilliant Healthy Eating scheme, which includes football clinic/ visit to 'The Villa').

I can't speak for your area - but I can assure you where Birmingham falls to pieces is good teaching of STEM subjects (most primary teachers are weak mathematically and for reasons that may have more to do with our CofE primary teaching things like the solar system were avoided like the plague and forget about talking to girls about puberty). So doing more at home is done for a myriad of reasons:

Frustration that your child doesn't know how to multiply 7 x 5 when they're 11 years old.

Desire for them to entry free state grammar school system running here - which necessitates that at start of Year 6 your child has mastered entirety of Y6 curriculum and then some.

filling in gaps and/or cultural (many foreign educated parents in Brum) tendency to expect homework - not oodles, but some reading/ maths each week - which for reasons only Birmingham teachers can answer isn't happening in a lot of schools. Please bear in mind it that low standards in english/ maths here is considered such a problem that most language schools (Chinese/ Hindu/ Korean/ Polish) are now offering English/ Maths tuition at Sunday Schools + homework to make up for what these communities see as woefully low standards in Birmingham state primaries.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 12:00:35

Oh and by the way my understanding is this is also playing out in London schools - and indeed EAL (bilingual pupils) often are outperforming 'locals' in schools:

PopularNamesInclude Fri 06-Feb-15 12:06:06

The most music any child gets in our school is one hour per week of curriculum time. All the extra lessons are just that... extra and offered after school and weekends. Some children have one extra 20 minute lesson per week. I have never seen a PSHE lesson that taught music or dance. School trips happen roughly once per half term. English and maths are taught for 5 hours per week each, every week. PE is max 2 hours In ks2.

Music and art and dance and sport are primary areas of achievement for many students. You can understand why parents want to nuture that natural interest and talent.

The teaching of STEM is strong at our school. We still have childen who struggle with times tables. And yes I do agree with you that parents could solve that in 10 minutes a day, every day, of practice. I do it with my own.

PastSellByDate Fri 06-Feb-15 12:27:47


Maybe it's just our area - maybe Brummies sing to learn - but

singing songs to learn tricks for times tables
singing songs to learn about grammar
singing for wet play in bad weather

every class performs songs/ music for class assemblies 2-3 times a year

every class has one music related field trip

every class has one theatre related field trip (which may combine with music - i.e. panto trip)

sports are used in maths - so visit to edgbaston cricket ground where scoring i.e. counting in 4s/ 6s (x4/ x6 tables) were used during the day with Y4/ Y5 pupils.

In Year R - pupils play a game out doors to learn even/ odd numbers and to count by 5s (groups of 5 racing across playground). Similar kenetic activities (using singing/ movement) are used for dividing/ mutliplication tables in Years 2 - 4.

PSHE - songs about bullying, about trying when its a struggle, etc.. are made up by small groups of pupils.

PE - dance (country/ballet/ indian classical dance) all done - with visiting groups coming and doing assemblies.

School assemblies (daily) include whole school singing, children playing instruments and singing in rounds. Primary was CofE (majority of primaries in birmingham are CofE or faith schools I think) - and singing hymns/ church services take up a lot of time in these schools (every assembly/ end of day/ regular services taking entire mornings).

My impression was there was more time spent on singing/ dancing in Birmingham schools than maths.

OldAntiquity Fri 06-Feb-15 12:39:48

ds1 wasn't motivated at 9, at almost 11 he's super motivated and sets himself personal goals at school. But his homework is still the most rushed get it out of the way thing ever.

9 is young.

redskybynight Fri 06-Feb-15 12:53:49

Same as OldAntiquity DS was not remotely bothered at 9, but is starting to see the value of putting effort in at nearly 11. Actually, despite my hating them and the emphasis put on them, the constant talk of how they "have" to work hard and do well at SATS actually has worked as a motivator.

kayjayel Fri 06-Feb-15 21:43:19

Thank you everyone, its really useful debate, and helpful to hear that motivation can kick in later. Its unfortunately something that extends outside school to music and sports, all of which he dropped, despite doing well so I think its a global fear of failure, and possibly not helped by being an August born boy. So I may consider a tutor more for the individual attention and lack of peer group comparison. I swing back and forth on the homework, so thanks for the links on this, I'll have a more thorough look.
Mumsnet is great - all your comments are brilliantly useful, thankyou.

MinimalistMommi Sat 07-Feb-15 09:08:22

I'd chuck the computer games, homework must seem so boring is comparison.

LePetitMarseillais Sat 07-Feb-15 10:45:33

Well my dc have an array of computer games and manage to work hard so no I wouldn't get rid of them.

I would however ration them.No screens at all before school an hour max after,after homework and chores.Weekend get the homework done first thing Sat so he can relax for the rest of the weekend and feel smug.

Be ruthless,he will thank you one day. Instil the importance of homework and working hard,it does drip in eventually.

Re tutor you will get a shed load of homework and it may well boost confidence(saves you buying and researching work books). Choose one carefully.My dd goes to one with a nice little group she enjoys seeing,lovely tutor(and lovely house envy) who is good at boosting confidence and making it fun.

I personally wouldn't go for 1 to 1 in own house as there is no peer pressure,same old scene,more likely to play up etc.Either way you will have shed loads of homework you will have to make sure gets done.Only you know if you can cope with that.

LePetitMarseillais Sat 07-Feb-15 10:47:17

Yy to tables,learning the time and masses of reading,it's amazing how proficiency in the above can boost confidence.

MiaowTheCat Sat 07-Feb-15 12:14:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Moniker1 Sat 07-Feb-15 18:38:31

I got a tutor for chemistry gcse for my son. Charming gent, a bit absent-minded professor type who came to the house.

My son really did not want to spend his time being tutored to. Upshot was he worked hard to bring his chemistry up to scratch and after a month or so tutor was not needed and DS did fine in exam. So the 'hassle' of being tutored was enough to make my DS work!

Curlybrunette Sun 08-Feb-15 21:33:12

I'm reading this with interest as I also have a (just about) 9yr old DS who I think does the minimum he can get away with at school. He is so happy at school, has loads of friends, loves all the football and playing he gets to do, likes the teachers etc. etc. etc. I do think there is a slight confidence issue, he'd sometimes rather not try a new concept then try and fail it, but over all I think he is coasting happily at school and not getting pushed to do more so I can see he doesn't do more.

There is a lot of issues at school at the moment; I won't hijack this thread with it, but I have been wondering for a while whether a tutor would help, or is necessary at his age?

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